When Rhiannon Birch stole the show at this year's WA Signature Dish competition with her Dorper lamb cutlets crumbed in lupin flakes and za'atar (served with Moroccan sweet potato lupin salad), the humble lupin was given the attention it rightly deserved.
With a unique nutritional profile of 40 per cent protein and 37 per cent fibre, lupins are right up there with fellow super-grains such as quinoa and chia seeds, but they are also low in carbohydrates, high in amino acids and free from gluten, cholesterol and genetic modification.
"Lupins are the world's richest natural source of combined protein and fibre," said Ms Birch, who is digital marketing officer at Lupin Foods Australia, the CBH Group, WA-owned company that sources lupins from local growers to manufacture lupin flakes.
"Eighty-five per cent of the world's lupins are grown here in WA, which has the ideal Mediterranean climate for lupin farming. It is a very sustainable form of agriculture because lupins are very hardy, require little water and promote ecological balance by restoring nitrogen in the soil, which encourages growth of other plants," she said.
According to Ms Birch, lupins are an ancient food source consumed throughout the Mediterranean region and the Andean mountains, by the early Egyptian and pre-Incan people. In Australia however, lupins are just starting to be recognised for their superfood qualities.
"Our 'Australian sweet lupins' have a sweeter character and are much better suited to cooking compared to the Mediterranean 'Albus' variety which is eaten as a snack in bean form," she said.
Traditionally suited to Middle Eastern cuisine such as falafel, pitta and dips, Ms Birch says lupin flakes are equally versatile in vegetarian dishes, including vegie patties, pies and frittata.
"The extra protein boost is perfect for vegetarians but the flakes are also a perfect gluten-free alternative to breadcrumbs for coating meat. Many gluten-free crumbs are quite starchy and provide limited nutritional benefit, but lupins hold their crunch, with the added protein and fibre hit," she said.
Lupin Foods lupin flakes are available online at lupinfoods.com.au or find them at IGA Canning Bridge, My Health Market, Cottesloe Central and Rivive Health Food, Margaret River. From $7.50 per 480g bag.